Presentation shows how diverse stakeholders can carefully design equitable conservation markets for surface or groundwater.

In an address to the annual conference of groundwater authorities, Workman, a native Californian, describes the worsening predicament of the State’s water, but shows how it can be resolved in ways that benefit local economies, social equity, and ecological resilience.

He draws on extensive experience in resource conservation trading systems from across the world, over time, and fisheries sectors. Building on these, Workman demonstrates who, how, where, and why self-organizing governance can design equitable conservation markets that slow and stop groundwater depletion.

The keynote begins with peer-to-peer water resource exchanges — practiced for 10,000 years by Kalahari Bushmen (!xaro), Arabian villages (falaj),  Balinese farmers (subak).

Then he shows how AquaShares applies these lessons, as well as those from modern rights-based “catch share” fisheries, to design and operate online water savings credit markets in Morocco and California.

The key is a transparent process to define fair access privileges to water, defend those allocations with monitoring and evaluations that build trust among stakeholders, and allow transactions that divest (lease, donate, sell) privileges to others in flexible ways that maximize the value of the groundwater resource.

The talk is broken in three, roughly nine-minute segments.

In the first Workman described California’s “tragedy of the (water-depleting) commons,” and revealing how peer-to-peer water resource exchanges (in Africa, Asia, and the Americass durable society over time) transform scarcity into abundance and conflict into cooperation, Workman here shows how the Golden State has already unlocked conservation markets to rescue another valuable, renewable, finite natural resource: fisheries.

Next, Workman walks through the approach in which public officials, private food producers, and civil society groups collaborate to design modern rights-based “catch share” fisheries. Hundreds of these fisheries systems are replenishing seas from New Zealand to Namibia to Iceland to Belize to the U.S. And he translates how the principles — defining, defending, and divesting of access rights — can be applied on land, resulting in more water in aquifers, more efficient and productive use of wells, and more prosperous groundwater communities.

Finally, building on its initial successful trading platform designed for a water utility in California (and, later, in Morocco), AquaShares began working with a small but diverse group of groundwater stakeholders in Sonoma Valley to design an equitable conservation market prototype for a Groundwater Sustainability Agency.  


Part One

Part Two

Part Three